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Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) is an umbrella term for disorders related to the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joint, and nerves related to facial pain. Your Plano, TX, head and neck surgeon may diagnose you with TMD if your jaw muscles, joints, and nerves fail to work together. When this failure to work harmoniously together occurs, the result is frequently substantial pain. At NextGen OMS, we treat TMD and related disorders. Although a surgeon can perform various interventions that we’ve discussed in a previous blog, there are also some things that patients can do themselves to manage their TMD for reduced bouts of pain.
Understanding What Caused Your TMD
At NextGen OMS, our head and neck surgeon will help patients understand the root causes of their TMD. Sometimes, these disorders are related to a known condition such as arthritis. However, your condition may be caused by grinding your teeth at night or a head trauma. Some people are actually at risk for developing this condition because of genetic or nervous system factors. When you visit our head and neck surgeon to discuss your condition, we may be able to easily pinpoint the cause of your TMD. Sometimes, more investigation is needed. Our surgeon will be able to advise you.
Discomfort Associated with TMD
Typically, it’s jaw discomfort that is the most unpleasant symptom associated with TMD. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for people with these disorders to experience mild or severe headaches, locking jaw, popping jaw, teeth grinding or clenching, teeth sensitivity, dizziness, and frequent earaches with no infection present. Many people also experience pain that occurs behind their eyes and spread all across their face–sometimes even down to their neck and shoulders. By doing your part to manage your condition–and with the medical advice of our head and neck surgeon–you may be able to reduce this discomfort by effectively managing this condition.
Managing Your TMD
When you visit our Plano, TX, head and neck surgeon and NextGen OMS, you can discuss various treatment options. Our office may recommend simply resting your temporomandibular joint, physical therapy, using a mouthguard, or surgery. In addition to advice from our experienced head and neck surgeon, you can also take steps to manage your TMD to reduce its unpleasant symptoms. Naturally, if these attempts to manage the condition fail to work, you may need a different type of medical intervention. When you visit for a subsequent appointment, we can then discuss how to best proceed.
Avoid Certain Habits/Activities
You may be able to manage your TMD by avoiding some of things you’ve been used to doing. One simple step you can do is to take small bites when you eat anything. A big bite of an apple can trigger your TMD pain. When you open your mouth to take a big bite of food, your joint has to work doubly hard. This puts strain on the temporomandibular joint and muscles. To reduce the need to take big bites and open your mouth wide, take a few moments to cut up that apple or other foods.
If you favor one side of your mouth when chewing even small pieces of food, you could trigger your TMD symptoms, according to our head and neck surgeon. Often, people do favor one side of their mouth when chewing, but this can put extra strain and stress on one area, causing temporomandibular malfunction–and pain. Try to be more mindful when you are eating and chew using both sides of your mouth. Eventually, you may form a new habit so that you do this automatically.
Another simple habit to avoid is resting your head on your hands. This can put pressure on your chin. It also allows the jaw to push against the temporomandibular joint. The chin rest reflex is a common one, but you can train yourself to refrain from this habit.
If you are in the habit of chewing on things like pen caps, pencils, or even your fingernails, you’ll definitely want to take steps to stop. These activities will put stress on your jaw that can result in a painful outcome. If you are struggling to stop this habit, try sucking on a hard candy (but don’t bite it!).
Foods and Beverages to Avoid with TMD
When you have TMD or suffering from temporomandibular joint pain, you may be able to manage this condition by avoiding certain foods and beverages. If our head and neck surgeon has diagnosed you with TMD, you should try to avoid:
- Gum: the repetitive chewing of gum can trigger considerable pain. If you have a gum habit, try sucking on a piece of hard candy instead. However, don’t bite into the hard candy or it, too, can lead to a bout of severe TMD pain.
- Caramel, taffy, and ‘gummy’ candies: Foods like caramel and gummies require chewing and repetitive opening and closing of your mouth.
- Nuts: Like hard candy, nuts can cause TMD pain when your crunch into them.
- Apples/raw carrots: Again, the hardness of these foods can cause TMD discomfort.
- Ice cream or popsicles: cold foods can trigger TMD symptoms
- Steak: Avoiding steak is a hard one for many people, but the need to vigorously chew can lead to pain. If you want to eat steak, take care to choose tender cuts and take extremely small bites.
- Caffeine: the caffeine in your favorite coffee and tea beverages can cause tension in the jaw that may trigger pain.
On the other hand, you can actually incorporate other foods into your diet to help you manage your TMD. By switching to these foods, you may be able to ward off TMD pain:
- Mashed potatoes
- Scrambled eggs
- Soft fruits and vegetables
- Apple sauce
- Leafy greens
If your steps to manage your TMD fail to reduce painful symptoms, be sure to schedule an appointment at NextGen OMS to consult with our head and neck surgeon. Sometimes a more invasive medical intervention is needed if initial management doesn’t result in success. We can create a treatment plan that is specifically targeted to your condition.